Tom Kelly: Favorites amid an unusual ski season
This was, well, a different season. Many of our norms went out the window. We had to become creative, try new things and bring back some old. In this week’s Ridgelines, I’ll share a few of my own favorites over the last five months of skiing.
• Best breakfast: I’ve never been one to have breakfast at the resort. But circumstances were different this year. So I often found myself getting an early parking spot and searching for something other than a plastic-wrapped muffin. The hands-down winner was Campos in the Resort Center. The pork and veal sausage roll with homemade chutney was an amazing way to start the day for under $10.
• Fastest early morning lift: Probably the biggest impact of COVID was on early morning lift loading. You had to be clever. My best experience was Lady Morgan. Even on Saturdays, it was pretty reasonable to simply ski to the lift just before 9 and get your day started. How do you get there? Take the bus! And if you take an early bus, you would have time for an $8 oatmeal and a tea at Montage Deer Valley. Very civil!
• Most relaxing on-mountain dining: While the new reservations systems at resort restaurants did actually work, it was hard to be spontaneous. So I sought out new opportunities. The new Goldener Hirsch Cafe (the one with the skybridge) at Silver Lake was an amazing find. The heated outdoor seating was COVID friendly. The fireplace seating inside was cozy. The food was reasonable and delicious. And I never once saw a line. My personal fave was the turkey and Swiss croissant (under $10) or splitting a lamb sausage and mushroom focaccia flatbread.
• Handiest COVID innovation: In early December I was standing on the porch of the skier service building at Alta. Snow was dumping. A veteran mountain host offered her unsolicited advice. “Most important thing you can have this year is a lipstick protector.” I had no idea what she was talking about. She also recommended using medical tape to seal your mask to your face — that was a bad idea (scars have worn off). But the lipstick protector kept my mask away from my mouth all season long!
• Lunch: This one got interesting. I’ve never been one to dine much during my ski outings. But I seriously missed grabbing a bowl of chili at Empire Lodge or a slice of pizza at Cloud Dine. So I rediscovered Davanza’s on Park Avenue. Just a two-minute walk from the Town Lift, you could pretty much always walk in, get a slice and an outdoor seat for just $5. Add a beer and you have a great $10-11 lunch.
• Showing off the mountain: I love showing our mountains off to friends. My favorite tour this year was escorting legendary skier Dan Egan around last week. We did an “eras of Park City Mountain” tour, visiting the original Treasure Mountains, the Quicksilver addition of Vail Resorts, the Dreamscape area of American Skiing Company and more. And while I feared Dan would want to huck some cliffs, he was a good guest and we just enjoyed talking about our great ski resorts here in Park City.
• Stunning view: From Empire’s Daly Chutes along the ridgeline to Murdock Peak, we have some truly stunning views. This year, standing atop the mountains and just absorbing the view took on a new meaning. I relished those views more this year than ever before. But, to me, none were more spectacular than the view atop Dreamscape. Nearly the entire ridgeline view there is pristine terrain unserved by lifts. The only sad thing this year was you couldn’t grab a donut. Next year.
• Best road trip: I had all these great plans for road trips with my Indy Pass up to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Or heading to Vail or Tahoe with my Epic Pass. None of that happened. But I did go up to Beaver Mountain near Logan. This is one of those places that’s on everybody’s list, but few make the 3-hour drive. What a great ski area! Go midweek and you’ll feel like you’re at the Yellowstone Club. The Seeholzer family has run it since the 1930s. I spent 2 1/2 hours skiing with Travis Seeholzer, and we only did six runs! Just easy skiing, meeting friends and admiring the views.
• Best parking: So, how did you solve the parking dilemmas? Did you revisit tailgating? How often did you take the bus? Yes, it was a different year. For those of us locals who only ski for a few hours, I found Main Street to be a pretty remarkable option. I had pretty good luck snaring spots on lower Main just seconds from the Town Lift. Yeah, it felt a little awkward booting up downtown. But it worked.
• Job we all hope goes away: Finally, kudos to every single liftie and manager who had to do mask patrol this year. We love ya! We feel sorry for you having to do that job. But you did it well! I wonder if “mask patrol” will start showing up on LinkedIn resumes. Thanks to the mask patrollers who had to do that job with a smile. And a special shout out to Elizabeth from Chantilly, Virginia, whose cheery, fun-filled voice still carried an air of enthusiasm as she deftly guided skiers onto Silverlode even after a five-month season.
Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). A recently inducted member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This is his 51st season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.
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This ski season was great once it got going, writes Tom Clyde. Being outdoors on the slopes was “a powerful and necessary thing this year.”